March 24, 2020
A Kosher Love Story: Chapter 3
I'm usually a hit with parents. I've met enough of them to practice my one-liners. I talk, smile warmly, and if the mood is right, throw in some lukewarm political commentary or a gentle joke on their son's expense. That shit makes parents swoon with delight. This one is only a bit of an idiot, they think to themselves, as they serve me tea and store-bought cookies, this one may be good for him - let's see if she passes the test.
You think I didn't know? Oh, I know the test. I know all about the small obstacles parents throw at their child's prospective partner. The "Your home is our home. Just pop into the fridge and get yourself something to drink" test. Fucking amateurs. Everyone knows the moment you open that fridge; it's over. No matter how much they beg, you never open that god damn fridge.
But standing at the top of the stairs of this hall, staring at two-hundred of Nate's closest family members has thrown me off balance. There are so many of them. I'm the one who's normally judging my date's family, looking at the ways they pass food around the dinner table, the nicknames they call each other, or if they've offered me something to drink within the first five minutes of my presence. It's those small things that determine where my place would be in their family. Would I end up subservient? A mere baby-making machine who would be a breastfeeding shadow in the background? The wife of the man? But I'm outnumbered, and now, I just need to survive.
Coming straight from the plane without any awareness of the soon-to-be detached foreskin extravaganza, you can say I'm a little rattled. See, when I meet parents for the first time, it's in a relaxed setting, usually foreskin-free, and this is where I can truly shine. But the pressure is on. Nate pulls me into him, whispering, "Some of my family is religious. So, rule of thumb: if you see a man wearing a kippa, don't shake his hand."
No handshaking, no handshaking, no handshaking, I repeat to myself. "Wait, so what do I do to say hi?"
"You just say, hi," he replies.
I can feel my face heating up with anxiety. How do you just say hi? Do I nod? Do I just wave and smile? These restrictions aren't helping me. Plus, at this moment, the only way to describe my look is moist. I have this stale, moist airplane scent creating an aura around my body that can only be described as infection yellow. Oh, and his mother is staring right at me, profiling me as if I'm a suspect on CSI. This is going just dandy.
"Oh, this is my dad," Nate says, his dad suddenly appearing in my field of view. His dad is wearing a light blue dress shirt and slacks, matched with a casual five o'clock shadow. I appreciate trendy older men. I look at his head; he's wearing a kippa, don't shake his hand. "Hello," I say, instinctively grabbing his hand to shake it. He smiles hesitantly and squeezes my hand back. Nate's eyes get big, almost as if he's trying to hint something to me. I gasp out loud, releasing his hand, "oh, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Shit, uh,I'm sorry for swearing. I'm really sorry." He smiles and mumbles something back before stopping a waiter who is carrying hummus. He rips off a chunk of pita bread and dips it into the plate of hummus before walking away.
I think that went well? I don't know. Point is, you met the dad, check. You fucked up, but it could have been worse. Now it's time to focus. I glance over towards his mom; she's still looking at me. You cannot fuck up meeting his mom. Just relax, it's going to be fine. I silently weep. It's not going to be fine.
I've heard rumors of the Jewish mamma. These rumors come from one Netflix movie I watched to prepare myself and countless unsolicited opinions from just about everyone I encounter.
Oh, he's Jewish? Just wait until you meet his mother.
You'll be lucky if you make it a day after you meet his mom.
Have you met his mother yet? No? Don't unpack.
Her eyes strike mine, I prepared for this meeting, thinking there would be a dramatic flair of the arm as she faints on the floor, softly gasping the words, "he brought a Goya into our family." And then Nate would look at me, while on his knees, holding his mother's head, and say, "I'm sorry, Natasha. I cannot go against my mother's wishes." And all two-hundred of his family members would point their fingers at me, tonelessly chanting, "you don't belong here, you don't belong here."
There are too many things going on in my head. First of all, I know there's a detached foreskin floating around here somewhere. Thirty-minutes ago, I was held as an illegal Russian immigrant, and now, I'm about to meet Nate's mom. I just can't catch a break. Why do I feel like I'm in a Western showdown?
She walks up to me, holding a baby, and kisses me on the cheek, "Hello, Natasha. Nice to meet you." I smile back tenderly, trying to stop my nervous eyebrow twitch from showing. "Hello, it's so nice for you to have me at this Brit. Thank you so much." She smiles, "Ah, it's okay. It's no problem," the baby starts frothing at the mouth from what I assume is baby rabies. "Oh," she says, wiping the baby's mouth, "I have to clean him up. It was nice to meet you, Natasha." And she walks away.
Fuck, I think to myself. It went too smoothly; it shouldn't have gone that smoothly. She hates me; she totally hates me.
"That went well," Nate says, grabbing a drink from one of the waiters, "right?"
"I don't know...do you think she likes me?"
"Of course she likes you," he says, rubbing my arm. The room goes quiet as people start getting up from their seats, heading to the front of the hall. "Do you want to watch the ceremony when they cut the foreskin? It's about to start."
"I think I'll pass." I take a seat at a table, next to Nate, and start to eat a dish of roasted eggplant with a small frown on my face, while waiting to hear the slicing of infant foreskin in the background. I didn't win his mom over; I could feel it in my bones. This was gonna be a tough nut to crack.
Nate rests his arm on my shoulder, squeezing me into his chest. His lips brush against my ear, "she likes you, don't worry. And you forgot, you're going to get to know each other a lot better. I mean, we're going to be living with my parents for a couple of months anyway."
Right. I had forgot about that.